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Damn Fine Tea

Red-Tailed Hawk Black Tea Blend from Damn Fine Tea

hawk_heroTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Damn Fine Tea

Tea Description:

The shrill cry you hear when you see a bird of prey onscreen is almost always that of a Red-Tailed Hawk. It is this cry that, when heard while alone and in the wilderness, reminds you that you are indeed alone and in the wilderness.

The Red-Tailed Hawk is a blend of bright, delicious teas from the mountains of India.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

This is another tea that I purchased along with the Spring Keemun on the 4th of July (free shipping day!)  It was the only other tea that Damn Fine Tea currently offers that I’ve not yet tried, and I’ve been wanting to.

The brewing parameters on the Damn Fine Tea website suggest brewing this less than 3 minutes for a “smooth, fragrant brew,” and a little longer for more briskness.  My first pot of this tea, I brewed for 2 1/2 minutes in my Breville One-Touch, and that made for a brisk cuppa.  For my second pot of tea, I decided to drop the steep time to 2 minutes to see how this changed the flavor.

hawk_leavesThe two minute steep time produced a pot that was much more to my liking.  I still enjoyed the 2 1/2 minute pot of tea, but the 2 minute pot of tea was as promised:  smooth and fragrant.

The description of this tea on the Damn Fine Tea website does not go into detail about what teas are used to craft this blend, only that it is a blend of “delicious teas from the mountains of India.”  If I had to guess, I would say that there is probably some Assam in this blend given the tannic tones I experienced with the 2 1/2 minute pot of tea.  (Don’t let that scare you off, though, as I mentioned before, just cut back on the steep time and you’ll have a really smooth, delicious pot of tea.)

This is a well-rounded blend:  full-bodied and richly flavored.  It has a nice malty tone to it with a delicious caramel undertone.  Beyond a rich, earthy flavor, I notice hints of fruit in the distance.  It’s a robust cup of tea, but when steeped for 2 minutes in my Breville One-Touch, it’s not overly astringent nor is it bitter.  I wouldn’t even call it tannic at this point.  It’s just … really, really tasty!

It makes for a lovely breakfast tea.  It’s got some gusto to it and it makes a great tea for dipping biscotti or perhaps some cookies that you might have purchased at the bakery, thinking they were going to be soft cookies, only they turned out to be crunchy and hard.  These types of cookies work out well for dipping into tea, and this tea seems to have improved the flavor of “toothsome” cookies.

And of course, I must mention the packaging of this tea.  The label is GORGEOUS!  This is a tea that I would have purchased for the tin alone, but I’m very happy to have a great tasting tea inside the beautifully labeled tin.  And of course, Andrews & Dunham have included a “free gift” with this tea:  a round coaster that matches the tin.  Maybe not the most clever of gifts, but I personally love it because the artwork on this tin is so beautiful … I love having a coaster to match!

Spring Keemun Limited Edition Tea from Damn Fine Tea

springKeemun_leavesTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Damn Fine Tea

Tea Description:

We’ve noticed spring is struggling to get off the ground this year in our little corner of the USA. March came in like a lion but its fur got stuck to the permafrost so the lion continues to sit outside our door, calmly licking its paws and giving us the stare down. Fine. We’ll stare right back. Should be no problem as long as our supply of this great Keemun holds out. Good thing we have 150 2.5 ounce tins of the… Wait. We only have 150 tins? Whose idea was that?

Despite a strong desire to keep all these tins of Spring Keemun for ourselves, we offer them to you. This is a spring crop of Keemun Xiang Luo (Fragrant Spirals), so while this tea has all the usual, unmistakable tawny richness of Keemun, it is more delicate than you might expect. Lion and lamb, all at once. The leaves are so beautiful — elegant, dark, and shiny — it’s almost a shame to pour water on them! When you do, make sure the water is boiling hot and allow it to steep for at least 5 minutes. Or longer. This is a very patient tea.

Learn more about this limited-edition tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Yeah … so shortly after I purchased the Yunnan Gold Tips on Canada Day, Andrews & Dunham announce that they’re offering free shipping to the USA on the 4th of July.  As it turned out, I would have been safe in waiting until the 4th to get free shipping for my Yunnan tea, but, I didn’t want to take that chance that I’d miss out on the tea because at the time that I ordered, there were only 6 tins left of it.  There are now – as I write this review – 2 tins left of the Yunnan.

And while I am enjoying having the Yunnan in my cupboard (it makes for a seriously tasty cuppa!) I’m even happier that I now have this Spring Keemun in my cupboard!  OH YUM!

I think I’m in love with the tea that is in my teacup right now.  Seriously.  I have tried a lot of Keemun in my years as a tea reviewer, but I do believe that this Xiang Luo is the best Keemun I’ve tried to date.  It’s delightful.  So good, in fact, that I’m contemplating picking up another tin or two so that I have it on hand for many more months to come.

It is rich and smooth and delicious.  There is very little astringency to this, although there is just a slight twinge of dryness toward the end of the sip.  The texture is thick and almost creamy, evoking thoughts of a warm, comforting soup.  But this is sweeter than a soup!

It tastes of honeyed caramel.  I can almost taste the light notes of flowery pollen.  There are fruit notes to this as well.  Sweet, juicy plum – just the sweetness of the plum, no tartness from the fruit.  Sun-ripened plums drizzled with honey and then cooked down to caramelize it.  Mmm!

There is a tantalizing, cake-y, freshly baked sort of goodness to this tea too, like a cake that had just come out of the oven.  You know those browned, caramelized edges of a freshly baked cake?  Yeah … that’s what I taste.  Again, let me say:  Mmm!

Delicious!  This tea is best served hot.  Sure, it’s really good when it cools off, but, something is lost with the chill.  The flavors mute a little and you really want to experience this tea to its fullest flavor, which means drinking ti while its still hot.  Give it a few minutes to cool after you’ve poured yourself a cup, and then begin to enjoy every sip.  Not that you need me to tell you to enjoy … because trust me, you will!

There are only 24 tins left of this tea – this is one you don’t want to miss out on.  The only disappointing thing about this tea is the “prize” that comes with it … it’s an A&D Damn Fine Tea button.  Like the kind you pin on your jacket or hat.  It’s OK, I guess, but seeing as this tea is to be a celebration of Spring, I thought that they could have been a little more creative.  A little toy bird like the one on the label of the tea?  That would have been fun!

But it should say something to you that my only complaint about this tea is the freebie that came with it.  (Well, that and the tea disappears too fast after I’ve poured a cup!)  What the Spring Keemun lacks in free prize it more than makes up for in amazing flavor!

Yunnan Gold Tips Limited Edition Tea from Damn Fine Tea

DFTYunnan2Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Damn Fine Tea

Tea Description:

We’re galloping into the New Year on a 150 horse-powered infusion of Yunnan Gold Tips. Care to join us? Like a chestnut mare with a brilliant golden mane, this special tea has the might to carry you through good times and bad, and a gentle, unassuming beauty that will stir noble feelings in your breast. We wish the year of the snake a fond farewell, perhaps even a tip of the hat as it slithers away into the bushes. Now it’s time to face the road ahead. Welcome to the year of the horse — saddle up this damn fine steed and ride out to meet it!

We’ve teamed up again with our pals at Aesthetic Apparatus and made 150 tins of one of our favorites, Yunnan Jin Hao Gold Tips tea. This full-bodied black tea from China will remind you of a classic Yunnan — it’s good and strong — but the gold tips add a soft, velvety smoothness. Brew it in boiling hot water for at least five minutes and you’re off to the races. Cross the finish line and re-steep the leaves for another ride.

Learn more about this limited-edition tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I have been chomping at the bits to order this tea for months now, ever since it was announced.  However, I have quite a bit of tea as it is, and I always seem to go a bit over my budget when it comes to tea spending, so I held off on ordering this as long as I could.  I didn’t want to miss out on it – since it is a limited edition! – but I also couldn’t justify ordering it when it was announced.  I waited and waited for a “free shipping” offer from Damn Fine Teas, but I never found that opportunity.

Then they offered free shipping to Canadians for Canada Day, and when I looked at this tea, I saw that there were only 6 tins of it left!  Egad!  I was freaking out, worried that I’d miss out on this tea while I was waiting for the 4th of July when (hopefully) they might have free shipping in the states (which they did), but I worried that this tea might sell out before the 4th arrived (it didn’t).  But I still didn’t want to take that chance, so I paid for the shipping and declared that my budget be damned!  It was time for some Damn Fine Tea!

I mean, it’s not like I haven’t had a golden tips Yunnan before, I’ve had quite a few lovely opportunities to try this type of tea.  I didn’t really feel like I was missing out on something as far as the tea goes, but, as I’ve admitted in the past, I’m a sucker for packaging.  And I didn’t want to miss out on a numbered tin which is beautifully appropriated with a vivid, yellow label with a cool horse on it.  I didn’t want to not have this tin.  I also needed to find out what cool little extra they’d send along with the tin.  They always have a nifty little toy or something with the tin … something that corresponds with the tea.  This tin came with a little rubber horse head finger puppet toy.  Cool.

Yeah, go ahead and say it.  I’m a nerd.

This Yunnan Gold Tips is an enjoyable tea and a nice selection for the celebration of the Year of the Horse (which was the reason behind this limited edition series).  I don’t know that it’s the best Yunnan tea that I’ve ever tasted, but I’m enjoying it and happy to have it as part of my tea stash while it lasts.

DFTYunnanThe dry leaf is beautiful with it’s chocolate-y brown leaves tipped with gold.  The aroma is earthy and rich, and there are hints of sweetness.  The leaves brew up dark and produce a flavorful liquid that smells sweet – like molasses!

That molasses-y note translates to the flavor, and I can taste notes of sweet molasses that seem to mingle with an undertone of caramel-like flavor.  It’s a hearty, robust tea with enough gusto to get someone up and running (or galloping!) on the days when you need that sort of thing.  It has a leather-y, earthy quality to the flavor which is a nice contrast to the sweeter notes.

But what I like best about a Yunnan are the spice notes.  And this tea has those too.  They are warm and comforting, and I think that’s why I enjoy a good Yunnan like this one so much.  It is an invigorating drink but there is a certain comfort to drinking it.  Like waking up even though you don’t want to, but then walking into that hot shower and it feels so good that all the sudden you’re not minding waking up so much.  That’s what this tea provides for me.

A really awesome tea, I’m glad that I finally ordered it.  I just wish that I could have gotten the free shipping on it.  Hey … Washington is right next to Canada … and I live in a city that is often confused as a Canadian city.  That should count for something, eh?  (See, I’m even trying to sound Canadian.)

Carävan Resurrected Black Tea Blend from Damn Fine Tea

caravanTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Damn Fine Tea

Tea Description:

You might think that it’s hard for a classic tea to keep its fans wide awake and screaming for more, year after year, tour after tour. Maybe you wonder if a blend ever grows weary of trashing countertops the world over? Perhaps you think that following an exhausting after-dinner encore in Sioux City, this tea is not prepared to demolish breakfast in Wichita the next morning?

Think again.

We’re proud to welcome Carävan back into our lineup. It’s long been one of our favorite, hard-rocking teas, and now it’s bigger, bolder, and better than ever. Hold on to your biscuits and let this custom blend of strong, smoky black tea from China rock you — you won’t regret it!

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

The first time I tried this Caravan Black Tea Blend, I tried the original batch (not the Ressurrected version!) from Andrews & Dunham’s Damn Fine Tea third series.  I didn’t review it back then, because I was more than just a little put off by the smokiness of the tea.  Back then … I didn’t know how to brew a smoky tea.  I have since learned a few things on how to best brew a smoky tea for my taste buds, which tend to be a little put off by a really strong smoky presence.

I know I’ve mentioned the “secret” more than once on this blog, but for those that may have missed it, the secret to brewing a very smoky tea (like a Lapsang Souchong or a blend with Lapsang Souchong leaves in it – like this blend) is to do a quick “rinse” of the leaves.  Pour the hot water over the leaves, allow the leaves to steep for 15 seconds, and then strain off the liquid and discard it.  Then resteep the leaves for 2 1/2 – 3 minutes.  This process will produce a tea that is still smoky, but not so smoky that it tastes as though you’re drinking tea from a dirty ashtray.

Because … I like some smokiness to a tea … I just don’t really care for the full-boar, robust smokiness of a tea like this one has when the above brewing method has not been employed.  Some smoke = compelling.  Too much smoke = NO.

But now that I’ve brewed this tea to cater to my taste buds, I’m really enjoying it.  It’s still smoky, sure, but, I can taste other flavors in this tea now that the smoke isn’t overpowering the cup.  The smoke is still the strongest note to the cup, but there are other delightful tastes to be discovered.

It is sweet and caramel-y.  There are deep fruity notes that meld deliciously with the burnt-sugar caramel.  There is some drying astringency toward the tail, but it’s what I’d categorize as moderate.  Overall, this is a very enjoyable cuppa, and certainly worth the little bit of extra effort it takes to rinse the leaves!

Mount Gray Tea (Earl Grey Tea) from Damn Fine Tea

mountGray

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Damn Fine Tea

Tea Description:

Long a cherished landmark, Mount Gray is truly monumental. Since its discovery in the early 19th century, generations of adventure-seekers have been drawn to the dense woods which blanket its gentle slopes. Breathtaking heights abound with lush, fragrant vegetation, and scenic trails offer surprises for even the most frequent visitors. Mount Gray was formed by a geological process involving black tea from Asia and citrus oil from southern Europe, a remarkable combination which continues to delight visitors of all ages.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Whenever Andrews & Dunham Damn Fine Tea comes out with a new blend, you know I’ve got to have it.  Like GOT to have it!  I love receiving tea from Damn Fine Teas, it’s always an adventure!  The delivery is super fast, and the tins are beautiful, and there always seems to be something a little extra.  Something that goes along with the theme of the tea.  For example, with the Double Knit Blend, there was a little plastic, black comb … kind of like you might find in the pocket of the nerdy types that would wear double knit shirts.

In the package with this Mount Gray Tea from Damn Fine Tea (an Earl Grey Tea!), there was a souvenir magnet that says “I survived Mount Gray.”  Now, see, these little extras … they might not seem like a big deal, right?  But I like these little extra touches.  It’s just that little bit of fun and cleverness that makes it so much fun to receive a package from Damn Fine Tea.   I don’t buy the tea for the extra – of course! – but it makes the receiving of the package all that much more enjoyable.

But what really sold me on Damn Fine Tea is their quality tea!  Their teas always prove to be top notch.  And I’m loving Mount Gray!  This is a subtle take on Earl Grey.  The bergamot is on the softer side here, and I’m tasting the fruitier quality of the bergamot.  Yes, of course I know that bergamot IS a fruit, however, it tends to have some floral qualities to it that make it taste somewhat “perfume-ish” sometimes.  But with this particular Earl Grey, the bergamot is on the citrus fruit side … not the soapy/perfume-y side!  BONUS!

The black tea is right on par with the bergamot here – with this tea, I can’t say that the bergamot is the strongest flavor … the black tea definitely plays its part well here. It’s a good, strong black tea … rich and flavorful, and the bergamot brightens the cup, giving it a sweet, acidic taste that is very lively!

Normally, my favorite Earl Grey teas tend to be those that have a hefty bergamot presence … a strong bergamot flavor that manages to taste strongly of bergamot without tasting strongly of Uncle Arnold’s Cologne.  This Mount Gray is different … I like it because the flavors are so well balanced.  It doesn’t taste off or chemical-y or perfume-ish, it just tastes like tea and citrus!  (And yes … this one is definitely right up there with my favorite Earl Grey teas!)

If you’re a lover of Earl Grey teas … this one should be next on your list to try!